discipleship, God's word, grace, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God

Forget Me Not

When you feel remembered–when someone acknowledges and leans in, it is so powerful. You feel seen and heard and chosen. There’s nothing more deflating than having to introduce yourself to a person for the 49th time, and they have no clue who you are. It feels empty. That’s why I love to connect with people–we need to know that we are valued. It changes how we interact with and invest in others. It reminds us that we are not alone and that we are a unique person in the middle of the masses.

A random gift I have is remembering people–what they do, where they are from, what motivates them, their name, etc. Because of 43 years of involvement in school, ministry, interests, there have been a lot of experiences and a lot of people, and my files are pretty full. So, I am getting more confused from time to time because it’s different to remember layers of connections from a combination of places, times, seasons. It makes me sad when, because of that, I forget someone.

The last few days, I have been studying in the Psalms again. There are several repeated phrases throughout the 150 chapters. ‘Remember. Do not forget.’ In fact, Psalm 106 traces the history of the Hebrew people in a series of God remembering them, taking care of them and them forgetting and ignoring Him.

The Hebrew people did not remember:

  • Did not consider His wondrous works (have you heard the one about parting the sea????)
  • Did not remember the abundance of His steadfast love but rebelled at the sea
  • They soon forgot His works and did not wait for His counsel
  • They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt
  • They exchanged the glory of God for something they could touch and see
  • they served their idols which became a snare to them
  • They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan (sound familiar?)
  • Psalm 28 speaks of evil men not regarding the works of the LORD of the work of His hand

But, notice what God remembered and the reason why.

  • YET He saved them for His NAME’s SAKE that He might make known His mighty power
  • On their behalf, he rebuked the sea and made it dry, He led them through the desert, saved them from the enemy, redeemed them
  • He showed His anger at their rebellion and said He would destroy them and Moses stood in the gap for them, He gave consequences for their unfaithfulness as they were taken over, His anger was kindled against His people and He abhorred His heritage
  • Many times He delivered them (though they were unfaithful)
  • for their sake He REMEMBERED HIS COVENANT (promise) and relented according to His steadfast love

The root of our actions comes out of the fact that we live as though God is not there. We forget His words. We live oblivious to His works and His movement. We fashion for ourselves idols of pragmatism (what works for us for our goals), romanticism (what feels best to us and what seems fulfilling), consumerism (striving and ingesting and going after more) instead of regarding His name and His glory. We do not listen long enough, make a practice of remembering His faithfulness, or bother even knowing Him to know that He is much more fulfilling and brings peace to our hearts in ways the things we fashion can never do. (Check out 1 John 2:15-17) So, we come up with a plan of our own.

The phrase that is haunting my heart–‘But they soon forgot His works and they did not wait for His counsel.’ and ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

I do not want to forget who God is…or be found to have fashioned a god in my own image. That seems to be our M.O. these days–one of these two things. The only way I REMEMBER Him and KNOW Him is to hear from His word by the power of His Spirit. When we use our own circumstances, our own desires, our own wisdom to figure out what He is for and what He is against, etc. we have made it about us. We are missing out on the gift of knowing Him and seeing the worth of His name. We, in effect, put words in His mouth–and He will not be mocked.

So, I encourage me and you to REMEMBER who God actually Is and to NOT FORGET His works and purposes. May we not devalue His infinite value, holiness, righteousness, justice, steadfast love by brushing over who He is like a chance introduction at a party. Let’s lean in. Let’s dig deep into His character poured out in His word and throughout the thread of our lives. He says and warns…’Forget Me not.’

authenticity, community, discipleship, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, The body of Christ

Why I share vulnerable places…

Many people in the course of these years of blogging in infertility or teaching in the midst have come to me or commented on how my blogs have encouraged them in the weight of their journeys.  Some that I suspected might struggle, some who I had no clue were struggling…

Some of you might say, “I could not put that out there.:  It is not easy–it’s a vulnerable place and when publicized it makes it more vulnerable.  You open yourself to possibly hurtful comments made by others who mean to help but push the dagger farther.  You also open yourself to the gift of others praying for you…countless ones who may not even share it until much later. I totally believe that God brought Jack and this growing baby by the prayers of the saints who found out about our infertility through Greg and I being vulnerable and asking for help.

I have always journaled–since I became a Christian 25 years ago.  It is a tool that  helps me tackle the reality that is going on inside my heart.  It helps me share with God and hear what He shares with me.  It helps me to study His word and mark down what comfort and direction His word brings in the midst of my emotions and life.  So, why did I blog it?

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

I am not my own.  I have been given a hope and life in Christ that flows over into others.  I spend my time attempting to point others to truth and to help them to grow.  The point of my deepest growth is oftentimes the point of my deepest pain pressing into Christ and his truth.  My suffering was and is met with His comfort, and in sharing that with others, I hopefully can help them lean in to the Lord and be comforted and in turn they hopefully do that with others.

So, why do I blog this?  Because the reason I faced it is for the comfort for the Body of Christ…to share with them the depths and the treasure of Christ.  This is a tool to do that.    I want to treasure Christ more than anything I might have lost or may be losing and help others to do the same.  He is worth it.

I am not special in this…That doesn’t mean you have to blog it.  In the world of blogs where people become celebrities, that is not what the aim is.  The world does not need another mom blogger, but the world needs moms who struggle who are honest with those around them about where their hope is found–Jesus.  People around you are hurting and they need to know how you struggle to your hope–not perfectly, but in the truth of Christ.  If you struggle with perfection or an eating disorder or infidelity or singleness or jealousy or have lost a sibling or a child or a parent or suffer from depression or Pick any thing, God has a way for you to share with someone else.  We are a Body…with all different parts held together by the Head–Christ.  Where would God have you share?  Are you pressing into Him?

discipleship, discipline, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings…

In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky.  We have feelings for a reason.  They help us express joy and enjoy life.  They can be exhilirating.  They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships.  Feelings are not bad in themselves.  The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.

Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying.  Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships.  So fun.  But then, what happens when they go away?  Some panic thinking their love is not true.  Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent.  Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again.  Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings.  Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time.  They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all.  There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.

A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur.  Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy.  This can be likened to our relationship with God.

At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating.  We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love.  We see God so many places.  We want others to know Him.  We hear Him.  Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn.  We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”

I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it.  Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me.  I made a judgement on them.  I discounted their faith.  Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then).  I understand a little more.

Think about adulthood.  Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope).  The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world.  I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?”  They easily get depressed.  It is hard.  They feel lost.  I remember those exact feelings.  There’s the F word–feelings.

Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth.  As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you.  This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations.  I could go on and on.

In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings.  Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him.  He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him.  He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness.  We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God.  A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all.  We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol.  He will not stand for that.

God is so much wiser than we make Him to be.  His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved.  This life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.

God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path.  He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage.  As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust.  To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin.  This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him.  If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery).  We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.

The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility.  In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word.  Was this easy? No.  I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else.  However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty.  Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way.  Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings.  Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him.  We make this decision everyday.  I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment.  Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul.  I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.

discipleship, God's word, grace, humility, New year, pride, self-absorption, the gospel, transformation by truth

A humble entrance

       As I looked toward this new year, I am overwhelmed.  Yes, we are having a baby (still sounds crazy to say), but that is not until June.  I am seemingly overwhelmed by every task and relationship I face even before the new year rolls.

        This Christmas season has been busy.  We traveled for a full week to Texas, and in our time there my heart was burdened for family and friends.  There was not an extended time to focus on Christ–to be in and savor His word.  I came back feeling empty and defeated.  I began thinking through next week and next semester and the things going on in girl’s lives that I disciple.  There is a lot to prepare for for the future child, but there is so much to be faithful in NOW. 

      As I walk with these 20-something young women, I see the battle is so fierce for their affections.  A day without truth poured in breeds so much falsehood, deception–spaces where the gospel truth is robbed and they fall back into self-reliance and/or guilt.       I reflect back on this fall.  I feel like I have failed these girls because of my complete lack of energy and the intense sickness that I had with pregnancy.  I guess the balancing act begins as I see the struggle between caring for a child (whether in my womb or out) and serving others in the body of Christ!  I want  to be purposeful in planning and taking advantage of this time before the little one enters the world.  I long to run well and faithful–pouring out His truth and honoring Him above all.    Pray for me that I prepare now to help these girls as my life transitions and I lead in ministry. 

       The good thing about the way I am feeling now is that it puts me in a posture of complete need as the new year commences.  Is there ever a time where I am not in need?  Is there ever a time that I can do any of this on my own?  No.  However, there is always a time when I think I can.  There are times when I walk in self-reliance, self-preservation, self-righteousness.  Unfortunately, those times come too often, and I forget that He superintends the growth–He is in charge.  I try to give myself honor instead of Him.  Or I tend to think it is all on my shoulders.  So, yet again, I am reminded that my hope is in the Gospel.  Jesus took the punishment for my self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-righteous pride.  It is finished.  I am to repent of my rebellious ways and cling to Him yet again.  There is such peace in that–such release.   And yet, everything within me fights that truth.   If there is anything I want and need to pass on to these girls, to our children, it is this beautiful way that Christ has made–the Gospel.

       If there is anything that this season of life has taught me, it is that my hope is not in circumstance or people.  My hope is in Christ.  In this time of joy and preparation for a child, it is so easy to get side-tracked from that hope.  Having babies has become like having a wedding.  We are tempted to plan for a nursery or ceremony more than a life and marriage.   More than nurseries or diapers, I have been thinking about the overwhelming task of discipling children, of teaching them a God-entranced worldview.  How do I do that from birth?  If there is anything I want to be faithful in, it is that.  He is so faithful to teach me through these girls that I meet with–to trust and  rest in Him, in His word.

      So, with all the swirling thoughts in my head entering this new year, I pray for a continued reliance on the beautiful Gospel of Grace.  The Lord is so good, and I am in such need.  In my feeble ways, I pray that this year, each day, I point others to the beauty of Christ, the truth of His gospel, and remember it myself.

community, discipleship, rest, spiritual growth, The body of Christ

Layers

         It seems that everytime I post something I am learning or convicted with, the week following gives another chance to learn even more.  The last post was about need–and I have been driven to even more need this week.  Physically I have been in need from the way I feel on hormones.  Emotionally I have been in need as I see friends and family members grieving over loss.  Spiritually I have been in deep need as I pray for discernment in leadership with WDC.    The physical, emotional and spiritual needs have drained me mentally. 

        All of this to say, there are always deeper layers to our need.  We understand we are in need, and we feel that we then have that concept under control.  The Lord continues to show us that our need is eternal for Him. 

        We are made to need, and it is so good for us to need Him.  He is our source.  I do not think we grasp the beauty of Him being our source–that we never get to the bottom of Him.  When we need, we are always looking for the end.  For example, “when this is over…when I feel normal again…when the pain ends…when I have control again.”  He says, ” I Am–I am the it, Jennifer.  I am the answer–I am all you need.”  My flesh tells me what I need is resolution.  He tells me all I need is Him. 

         He even ordered our week and commanded our time to see this need and be refreshed in Him.  The Sabbath is time to be with Him, enjoy Him, rest in Him, be filled in Him.  The Sabbath need is continual–not something we get through to go on with our lives. 

        He tells us in His word that we need others who are filled in Him.  The picture we are given of a body that is one and connected yet each part serving different functions is a picture of our need for one another with Christ as the Head. 

       I get SO frustrated with the thought from others that they can do the Christian walk alone.  IT.  IS.  NOT.  POSSIBLE.  We were not created in that way.  We cannot function in that way.  We kill ourselves in trying to live that way. 

       For those of you who know me, you know I spend my time pouring into young women in disciple-making relationships.  I know this is an important aspect of their growth.  Do you know what is blaringly obvious to me?  If they do not have deep friendships with those who are in Christ calling out the places in them to follow Him deeper, it is practically pointless for them to be in relationship with me.  Why?  Because we NEED the body–we are fickle and weak and adulterous–and we need to be spurred on continually to truth and love and good deeds.  That doesn’t happen when those all around us are “conforming to the pattern of this world.”  We need others to spur us on to “renew our minds” in His presence and truth.  We need to be integrally  involved in a church that lifts the truth that we need Him.  We need to serve others and learn to be served as we carry one anothers burdens.  We cannot do marriage or family or singleness or business or pleasure alone.  We need Him and we need those who are in Him in order to make His name known and spread His love in the world. 

       What would I have done in the past several years without dear friends in Christ lifting me up in prayer, sharing scripture with me, calling out places in me?  I would not have survived and thrived in growth.  God gives those beautiful gifts of others to show a fuller picture to me of His love.  He uses me in the same way to show His love–not for my glory, but for His. 

       I am learning that in our need, it takes effort to follow Him.  It takes effort to create friendships and be vulnerable.  It takes effort to study His word and set aside time for prayer.  It takes effort to serve others in order that they might know Him more.  That effort is not in vain–the fruit of it is exponentially multiplied by the Spirit in the growth that occurs.  There is a sense of living in Him as we were created to live–functioning as a body as we were created to be.  It is good, but it is not easy.  We are not promised ease, but we are promised rest in Him.